Savoring has changed my life, but here is what an expert has to say on the subject . . .
Fred B. Bryant, Ph.D., a highly regarded social scientist, has been studying the art of savoring for more than 20 years. Savoring is the ability to be aware of and/or to recall with detailed pleasure positive experiences.
The research of Bryant and other scientists indicates that being able to savor the positives in life may be even more important than being able to overcome the negatives. And, that “the level of joy we get from positive experiences depends on how we think and act in response to them. We don’t automatically feel joy and happiness when good things happen to us.”
In his 2006 online article “The Art of Savoring” in Natural Solutions: Vibrant Health, Balanced Living/Alternative Medicine/InnoVision Health Media, Dr. Bryant noted “the greater their skill at savoring, the greater the joy people feel in response to positive events. What’s more, the ability to savor highly predicts how happy people say they are.”
Savoring helps us enjoy joy! I like that.
And, as we all know, but can sometimes forget, joy can be found in a beautiful sunset, a quiet moment, a cool breeze, a kid’s smile, a great cup of coffee or a double-scoop ice cream cone on a summer’s day. (Or, any day for that matter!)
In his article, Dr. Bryant shared 10 insights for “intensifying and prolonging” the wonderful things that happen to and around us – no matter how big or how small they might be. I have included 5 here – and will share 5 more on Monday.
THE FIRST FIVE OF DR. BRYANT’S “10 ways to enhance savoring”
- Share your good feelings with others.
Whether you’re celebrating a birthday with close friends or hiking through a meadow with a loved one, tell the other person what you appreciate about the moment. Sharing is the strongest predictor of the level of enjoyment someone feels. In fact, studies of people’s reactions to positive life events have found that people who share their positive feelings with friends have higher levels of overall happiness than people who do not share their feelings. If you’re by yourself, no problem: The people with whom we share a positive experience need not be physically present while the event is happening. Research shows that merely thinking about sharing the memory of an ongoing positive experience later with other people works just as well, perhaps because, in part, the desire to share the memory later with friends can motivate us to notice pleasurable details we might otherwise miss. The 17th-century French playwright Jean Baptiste Molière crystallized the powerful role of friendship in savoring when he observed, “It is a wonderful seasoning of all enjoyments to think of those we love.”
- Take a mental photograph.
You’re playing a rowdy game of Monopoly with your family. Pause for a moment and consciously take note of specific features you want to remember later: Aunt Mimi spewing milk at a joke, Grandma sneaking bits of food to the dog, and Cousin Leo getting sent to jail—without collecting $200. When building memories, people search for, notice, and highlight the things they find most enjoyable. In the process, people not only pinpoint pleasurable aspects of the situation and enhance the intensity of joy in the present, they also form clearer and more vivid memories they can more easily recall and share with others in the future. In one experiment, for example, students went for a 20-minute walk each day for a week. Those instructed to look for good things to remember during their walk reported higher levels of happiness at the end of the week than those instructed either to simply take a walk or to consciously look for bad things.
- Congratulate yourself.
Your boss raves about your work in an important meeting—tell yourself how impressive this is, and remind yourself how long you waited for this to happen. This style of savoring involves “patting yourself on the back” mentally and exalting in the warm glow of pride associated with a positive outcome. Research shows that the more people mentally affirm themselves when they do well, the more they report enjoying the particular outcome. Self-congratulation promotes savoring by attributing responsibility for success to oneself. Indeed, the Latin root word for “congratulate” is congratulari, which literally means “to wish joy.” Wishing yourself joy for personal achievements and successes can make those experiences that much more rewarding.
- Sharpen your sensory perceptions.
You take a bite of delicious cheesecake. Close your eyes to block out visual distractions and concentrate on the rich taste to intensify the flavor. Sometimes competing sights, sounds, or smells can interrupt the flow of positive feelings and dampen savoring. In these cases, blocking out distractions can enhance savoring by sharpening your focus of attention on the pleasure itself. In one study, college students instructed to attend to the physical sensations they experienced while eating chocolate reported greater pleasure, compared to students who performed a distracting task at the same time.
- Shout it from the rooftops.
Maybe you’re sorting through your mail, and you unexpectedly receive a large refund check from the IRS. Don’t just smile inwardly and tuck it in your wallet—laugh out loud, jump up and down, and shout for joy. Outwardly expressing positive feelings can intensify them by providing our minds with physical evidence that we are, in fact, joyful. In several experiments, people instructed to express their feelings in observable ways while watching a humorous video reported more enjoyment than people instructed not to express their feelings. In other words, “putting on a happy face” may actually help you feel more positive.
Bryant also reminded us that we don’t have to do all the steps perfectly, even getting started on one of them can bring more joy into our lives. He encourages us to pick what works for us.
So that is what I did . . . I just took a mental photograph (Insight # 2) of the beautiful view from the upstairs bedroom window of my sister’s house where I spent two glorious nights and am now writing this post. When I began, it was dark outside and I am now reveling in the fact that I was so absorbed in writing (Insight #7 – but I am getting ahead of myself) that I did not even notice the change. And, I am telling you about it (#1) and also taking a moment to congratulate myself (#3) for getting-up early enough to write this post before heading back on the road again.
Wow, it is only 6:25 a.m. and I am already feeling great. Savoring really does work!
Here’s to enjoying and savoring the weekend.